On Thursday, COCAP and about 3,000 people celebrated the one-year anniversary of the civil protest against the monarchy. And what other way is there to celebrate civil protest, then by staging a civil protest. As I walked to the rally, I saw at the head of the crowd a line of army officers with their bamboo batons at their sides. “Those look familiar,” I thought. “Oh yes, I saw those same batons in pictures of people being beaten during the protests in April.” I started to feel a little uneasy. If you-know-what hits the fan, I would have a hard time running in my skirt. I cursed my fashion choice for the day.
The street outside Ratna Park, a central location in Kathmandu, was blocked by thousands of people sitting. Some held up signs that reflected the demands of the civil movement.
“Execute the 8 point agreement!”
“Drive the Peace Process to its purposeful conclusion!”
“Announce the date for the election to the Constituent Assembly!”
“Dissolve the House of Representatives!”
“Respect the Ceasefire Code of Conduct in Letter and Spirit!”
“Punish the high-level army officers responsible for human rights abuses during the peaceful Janandolan!”
“Viva la Republique!”
I ended up getting a sign of the only point I didn’t quite understand: dissolving the House of Representatives. When I asked for clarification about it, I was told it was too complicated to explain. But before I knew it, it was being taken away to give to another person. I guess my sign waving lacked enthusiasm.
As I looked around, there were more people standing on the sidewalks, while others had an aerial view from the pedestrian overpass. The street was completely filled to capacity. We all sat in the same direction, and held signs in the same direction. Photographers were snapping away. Both the crowd and the photographers took advantage of the photo op presented to them.
Not much happened in the first twenty minutes. People were rather quietly sitting, waving their signs and flags. Then, there was a big commotion at the very front. I saw people running down the adjoining street. Army officers quickly followed in pursuit. Some in the sitting crowd stood up. I didn’t want to have a late reaction, so I stood up as well. The man behind me tugged at my sleeve. “It’s nothing,” he said. I sat back down. A few minutes later, a round of applause broke out as a large mass of Maoists supporters marched through waving red flags – under army supervision, of course.
After an hour, the “entertainment” began. Speeches were made from the bed of a blue truck hired for the occasion. Poets recited their poems. There was even a four-man group singing “We shall overcome” in Nepali.
One poet, who I recognized from other meetings I’ve been to in Kathmandu, was reciting from his notebook when a young man suddenly rushed the truck and jumped to get into the bed. A group of men immediately pulled him down and dragged him out of the crowd. Overzealous fan? Hijacker? I never found out. Since all this was happening on the other side of the truck from my view, I couldn’t see much. As some people in the crowd stood up, I stood up as well. Again, a man behind me pulled me down, saying, “It’s nothing.” The poet, bless his heart, continued on, without missing a beat.
As I sat listening to the other speakers, I suddenly hear a man trying to speak to me in Nepali. He was standing a few feet away, pointing rather vigorously at me. He was smiling, so I assumed this was not an attack. “Pasu! Pasu!” Point. Point. He thought I was his cousin. I shook my head. My first Nepali protest and I was already a relative.
Posted By Lori Tornoe Mizuno (Nepal)
Posted Jul 27th, 2006